» 04/29/2009, 00.00
Rajapaksa triumphs in provincial elections: a vote against the Tamils?
Melani Manel Perera
The victory of the United People's Freedom Alliance seems like indirect approval of the war against the Tigers. But the country is witnessing a competition of solidarity to assist the refugees. The Christian Churches are the most active. Muslims send five cooks to refugee centers in Vanni.
Colombo (AsiaNews) - The United People's Freedom Alliance (UFPA) has triumphed in the provincial elections. 64.7% of the inhabitants of the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara voted for the alliance that supports President Mahinda Rajapaksa. For some commentators, the result of the voting is indirect approval by the population of the Western Province for the decision to battle the Tamil Tigers with no ceasefire. Nonetheless, the figures do not lend themselves too simplistic interpretations. The voters for the UFPA do not include only Sinhalese, who make up the majority of the population of the Western Province, but also the Muslim and Tamil minorities. The result of the voting must also be interpreted together with another fact: many of the people who chose the alliance of President Rajapaksa are the same ones who are giving food, clothing, and goods of every kind for the Tamil refugees.
The majority of the inhabitants in the southern part of the island want the total defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and an end to the ethnic conflict that has divided the north and south of Sri Lanka for decades. But this does not seem to coincide with the generalized hostility of the Sinhalese population toward the Tamils. This is clear from the strenuous aid efforts being seen from much of the southern part of the country, involving people of every social and religious background. Many of them, especially the Christians, had begun to take up collections even before the appeal to the population by Rajapaksa himself.
The number of civilians who have fled from the war zone in recent days has exceeded 100,000 - the Defense Ministry says there are 113,667 - to whom must be added the thousands of refugees, the so-called Internally Displaced People, who for years have been living in the refugee camps managed by the Colombo government. The Catholic Church has been collecting donations on their behalf for months, and is ready to intervene in the war zone with its charitable organizations if the authorities and the army give them permission. Moreover, for years religious and priests have been working in the war zone, and have never left the population, even under the bombing; some of them have lost their lives, others, like Fr. Vasanthaseelan, have been seriously injured.
Sister Gertrude, the superior of the Good Shepherded Convent, Kotahena in Colombo, tells AsiaNews that "As a response to the first appeal from Archbishop Oswald Gomis, we collected 500,000 rupees [editor's note: a little more than 3,000 euros] to be sent to the victims of the war, especially the women and children." To these were added 300,000 rupees donated by students and families of the Catholic schools, and "another 200,000 gathered in just one day through a school choir performance."
Together with the raising of funds, the faithful of the diocese in the capital have also collected new and used clothing, freeze-dried food and rice, and health and hygiene products, to be sent to the Caritas centers operating in Vanni, or to the government offices assisting refugees.
There is a genuine competition of solidarity underway among Catholics and Anglicans. But it is not only Christians who are involved in the efforts to help the Tamil refugees. With the worsening of the humanitarian emergency, the efforts of the various religious communities in the country have also increased. The Batticaloa Kattankudy Mosque Federation, for example, has sent five Muslim cooks to the IDP centers in Vanni. The secretary of the Muslim federation, Sabeel, explains that "the five took their provisions and cooking utensils," while other volunteers "are collecting food and clothing for the Tamil refugees." "They are our fellow citizens," Sabeel says, " and it is our duty to take care of them while they are in need."
19/02/2009 SRI LANKA
Church of Colombo collects food and medicine for refugees from north
An appeal from the archbishop, to "express our concern and solidarity with victims of the war on both sides at this juncture in a more concrete manner." The project is coordinated by Caritas-Seth Sarana. The products collected will be sent to refugee centers in the area of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi managed by the local dioceses.
19/12/2008 SRI LANKA
Bishops request Christmas ceasefire. Sri Lankan government says no
Catholic and Anglican bishops are asking for a ceasefire to alleviate the situation for civilians. For the army, the condition is that the Tigers lay down their weapons. The appeal asks both parties for the creation of a buffer zone, in collaboration with the Red Cross. Meanwhile, the offensive continues in the northern part of the island.
24/04/2009 SRI LANKA
Two priests injured while helping refugees in war zone
Fr. Vasanthaseelan was hit by a shell in the church of Valaignarmadam. His leg has been amputated. Fr. Pathinathan is now at Mulli-vaaykkaal Hospital. The government is appealing to the international community for aid for the refugees. The foreign minister of Colombo: "We are about to confront an emergency humanitarian situation."
02/03/2009 SRI LANKA
Government plans "villages" for the 200,000 refugees of Vanni
They are being built in the areas of Mannar and Vavunya, and are being equipped with schools, banks, post offices, and health clinics. According to government sources, the refugees will remain there for at least three years. The temporary measures are being taken to allow the army to restore the areas involved in the conflict.
07/02/2009 SRI LANKA
Situation worsens for civilians in Wanni
About 250,000 refugees have nothing, and it is almost impossible to reach them with food. The only functioning hospital has been bombed, and its patients removed.
Mother Teresa, Mercy for Asia and for the world (VIDEO)
We publish the video recordings of the presentations made at the international symposium organised by AsiaNews on 2 September. In order of appearance: Fr Ferruccio Brambillasca, PIME Superior General; Card Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide; Sr Mary Prema, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity; Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator of the Cause of Mother Teresa; Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai; Fr John A. Worthley, on the influence of Mother Teresa in China; a witness to the influence of Mother Teresa in the Islamic world; and Mgr Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia.
Beijing issues new, harsh draft regulations on religious activities
Fines of up to 200 thousand yuan (27 thousand euro) for "illegal religious activities" by Catholic or other members of underground communities. "Illegal activities" include "dependence from abroad" (such as the relationship with the Vatican). The regulations preach non-discrimination, but party members are forbidden to practice their religion, even in private. Strict control of buildings, statues, crosses. Clampdown on the internet. It could be the end of the underground community.
22/09/2016 RUSSIA - VATICAN
20/09/2016 ITALY â€" VATICAN
20/09/2016 ITALY â€" VATICAN
AsiaNews IS ALSO A MONTHLY!
AsiaNews monthly magazine (in Italian) is free.